ROME (Reuters) – Some 95% of Italy’s motorway network will not see any increase in tariffs in the coming year, the Transport Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday, putting a further squeeze on the country’s toll operators.
Road tolls were frozen across most of Italy in 2019 in the wake of a deadly 2018 bridge collapse, and the government had previously said it would extend the price moratorium until June.
However, the ministry indicated on Tuesday that the freeze would remain in place throughout 2020 for most of the country’s 26 motorway operators, including Atlantia’s <ATL.MI> unit Autostrade per l’Italia (ASPI).
“Therefore, 95% of the motorway network which is under concession will see no tariff increases for the year 2020,” the ministry said. It said the four firms that could increase tolls were CAV, Autovia Padana, Bre.Be.Mi. and Pedemontana Lombarda.
ASPI said in a statement that at the request of the ministry, it would voluntarily suspend tariffs hikes that had initially been approved for 2019 and that it had hoped to introduce for 2020.
The ministry announcement came the day after part of a highway tunnel roof operated by ASPI collapsed near the northern city of Genoa, underscoring once again the fragility of Italy’s ageing road infrastructure.
No one was injured in the incident, which came 16 months after an ASPI motorway bridge in Genoa disintegrated, killing 43 people.
The ruling 5-Star Movement has repeatedly blamed Atlantia, a company controlled by the Benetton family, for the disaster and said ASPI’s concession should be revoked.
Atlantia has denied any wrongdoing and said it carried out maintenance of the bridge as required by the contract.
Transport Ministry officials held talks with ASPI on Tuesday over the tunnel roof collapse. The ministry said in a statement that ASPI had told the meeting that the tunnel had recently been checked by external controllers and had been declared safe.
The ministry said it wanted ASPI to speed up controls on all its roads. It also asked the company to provide financial support to the Port of Genoa to compensate it for losses incurred by the 2018 bridge disaster.
ASPI gave no immediate comment on the meeting.
(Reporting by Crispian Balmer and Angelo Amante; Editing by Alison Williams)